Well we all know that I love to cook. All of the time – with no hesitation. Even when my family tries to take it easy on me for a family gathering and says “let’s just do pizza”, I can’t do that. I feel guilty getting pizza when really it’s just as easy for me to roast some chickens, make a green salad and have some good crusty bread; I feel much better about that nutritionally and spiritually because I love nourishing my family (I do love a good pizza though!).
But, I will let you in on a little secret, there is one time of the year that I would much prefer to be invited to a party or not cook and it’s the Fourth of July holiday. By this time in the Summer things have settled down into an easier flow, kids are in camp and I want to take a deep breath. And I don’t want to turn on the oven- or grill – or do anything that requires heat. I need to continue the chill, even if it’s just for a week.
So, in the case that I am not invited to your party and need to fend for myself (sigh), I like to make this sandwich. It’s crisp, refreshing and bright and somewhat healthful. It’s essentially a salad stuffed into delicious bread. The best thing about this sandwich is that the more you let it sit, the better it gets. It can be as fussy or simple as you would like and can use up lots of odds and ends of veggies that are leftovers just waiting for their chance at your table. Eat this sandwich at a picnic, inside if it’s stormy, bring it to a party, even if I wasn’t invited (but maybe next year I hope!).
I was reminded of how much I liked this sandwich when listening to Mimi Sheraton speak about it on the Radio Cherry Bombe podcast. The “pan bagnat” is one of her 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. Years ago, New York Magazine did a similar recipe and I always like to keep this in the summer rotation. This involves some chopping, but it’s worth the effort. Or just buy the prepared ingredients, assemble and enjoy. It’s worth it, even if I’m feeling the lazy.
Feel free to leave out the tuna and have an all vegetable sandwich.
Use good ingredients, either homemade or store bought and you’re good to go.
2 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)*
1 very small garlic clove, minced*
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar*
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard*
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
1 8-inch round crusty country loaf or small ciabatta, halved lengthwise. Any good crusty bread that you like
1 Kirby cucumber or 1/2 regular cucumber
1 medium-size, ripe tomato, sliced
½ small red onion, sliced
1 jar (5 to 6 ounces) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
8 large basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive spread, whatever you like (a nicoise spread would be more authentic)
1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and thinly sliced
optional items: roasted red peppers, string beans, crunchy lettuce, sliced radishes, etc.
In a small bowl, whisk together the optional anchovies, the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. *Alternatively, use a good salad dressing/vinaigrette that you like.
If using a country loaf, pull out some soft interior squishy part to form a cavity. If using a ciabatta, you won’t need to eliminate anything. Use your judgment, it’s a sandwich, you can’t mess it up!
If using a Kirby cucumber, slice thinly. If using a regular cucumber, peel, halve lengthwise, and scoop out seeds from one half. Thinly slice seedless half. Add sliced cucumber to vinaigrette and toss well.
Put the olive spread on the bread, then place half the cucumbers on bottom of bread. Top with tomato and onion slices (and any other vegetables that you are using), then with tuna, basil and egg slices. Top egg with remaining cucumbers and vinaigrette. Cover with second bread half and firmly press sandwich together.
Wrap sandwich tightly in foil, waxed paper or plastic wrap, then place in a plastic bag. Tradition dictates that you press this sandwich so all of the flavors meld together. Put sandwich under a weight such as a cast iron pan with a filled kettle on top of it. Weight sandwich for 7 to 10 minutes, then flip and weight it for another 7 to 10 minutes . Or skip the weighting and wrap tightly. Unwrap, slice and serve immediately, or keep it wrapped for up to 8 hours before serving.
Recipe adapted from the New York Times.